Female Circumcision (2)

Female circumcision, or, more accurately, female genital mutilation, is a form of violence against women. It has no medical value, can cause serious medical complications, but is practised worldwide, with two million girls mutilated each year; around 6,000 every day.

In addition to causing acute physical and mental suffering, the health effects of female genital mutilation are carried with women throughout their lives. Immediately, girls are at risk of severe pain, infection, shock, haemorrhage, tetanus, septicaemia and even death. Later, reproductive and sexual health suffers, as girls and women have difficulty with voiding, menstruating and intercourse. Pelvic infections may cause infertility, and those women who do conceive will likely have problems during childbirth due to a scarred birth canal - increasing the risk of still birth, and haemorrhage leading to maternal death.

Egypt has one of the highest rates of female genital mutilation, estimated by the World Health Organisation to be 97%. Last summer, the press reported that three young Egyptian girls died after suffering female circumcision; the youngest was eight. Although actual mortality figures are not known, and to attempt to calculate the effects on women's physical and mental health would be impossible, it is clear that effects are devastating.

The World Medical Association, which represents nearly 70 national medical associations and over three million physicians worldwide, is encouraging the Egyptian Minister of Health in his bid to continue his ban on female circumcision. The ban, which was effected last year, was recently overturned by the Court of Administrative Law in Cairo. It is understood that the Court's decision will be appealed by the Health Minister.

Commenting on the Administrative Court's Decision, Dr Ian Field, Secretary General of the WMA said:

"We utterly deplore the Court's decision and we support wholeheartedly the Health Minister's intention to appeal. We condemn female circumcision because of its appalling impact on the physical and mental health of women and children. It is nothing less that female genital mutilation.

"Many world organisations, including the World Health Organisation, the United Nations Human Rights Commission and UNICEF have all said that this practice should be eradicated.

"The decision of the Egyptian Court makes a mockery of the United Nations allowing the International Conference on Population to be held in Cairo. I shall be writing to the Egyptian Health Minister to encourage him in his appeal, and the World Medical Association and its member associations will continue to campaign for the eradication of this practice wherever it occurs in the world."